Governor Haley’s recent announcement that South Carolina will request a waiver from the United States Department of Agriculture restricting SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits to healthy food purchases will have a significant impact on the 1,003,861 residents living in food deserts throughout the state.

Several forums have been held to provide citizens the opportunity to express support or disapproval for the proposed waiver, with more meetings scheduled in the coming weeks. These discussions run the gamut of opinions but one thing is clear: limiting SNAP benefits to healthy foods will only work by increasing access to healthy food.

If SNAP benefits are restricted to healthy food, it is the responsibility of communities to ensure access to approved purchases, especially in the 188 census tracts throughout the state that are food deserts (South Carolina’s food deserts tend to have high SNAP participation rates according to the USDA).

What is the solution? Create opportunity and access to healthy, affordable food.

Investments of community and financial resources are needed to facilitate development of retail outlets where residents can utilize their SNAP benefits. Full-service grocery stores, corner stores, food hubs, farmer’s markets, co-ops, and mobile markets are the answer to providing healthy food options in both urban and rural South Carolina communities.

Whether or not the requested SNAP waiver is approved, the issue of limited access to healthy food remains a reality for many communities across South Carolina. CLF encourages state and local leaders to join the conversation about how to address food deserts and food insecurities across the state. We encourage them to support the South Carolina Food Access Task Force, a group of stakeholders that will work to provide a set of public policy recommendations to address the barriers to equitable food access and to set forth an implementation plan for a statewide Healthy Food Financing Initiative. We ask community leaders to make healthy food access a priority.

Through its advocacy and financing program, CLF continues to work towards improving access to healthy, affordable food for all residents of South Carolina. For more information on our Healthy Food Financing Program, please contact Anna Hamilton at anna@sccommunityloanfund.org.